Story of Manipur from Independence to Merger
The dream remains a dream
- Part 3 -

Shantikumar Moirangthem *

The bottom line lies embedded within the above paragraph containing the following objects - "The Indian flag" and "the Gandhi cap". The agitation itself was known as " Firal (flag) Satyagraha". The incident happened when a group of Congressmen with the party cap and Indian National flag tried to enter the temple-gate of the palace, they were stopped by the palace guard.

"The Gandhi caps and tri-colour took Manipur so much so that to enter the Palace compound one of the Congress parties would gladly lay down their lives (Resistance-June 13, 1975)" - wrote M.K. Priyobrata28 years after the incident. Ambivalence in the perception of the status of Manipur after independence was apparently prevalent. Did perception outplay the truth?

The truth was that on 15 August, 1947 Manipur became an independent sovereign state with an obligatory treaty relationship with India by virtue of the Stand Still Agreement and the Instrument of Accession which confirmed the continuance of the pre-existing agreements and administrative practices of the British India while giving power to the Dominion of India on matters concerning - Foreign Policy, Communication and Defence.

On the very day of Manipur's Independence - why create a controversy over a neighbouring country's flag? Did the spirited Meitei reformists turn antagonists overwhelmed by the noise of Indian nationalism and its romance?

The Sovereign State of Manipur - what a dreamland? The euphoria of independence made everybody excited for exact 791 days from 15 August, 1947 to 15 October, 1949. Late Pabung Elangbam Yaima once narrated the atmosphere they had at Calcutta where he was doing his B.Sc final year in 1947. It was quite a crowd at Calcutta: W.Kulabidu, the ex MP; T.Ibotombi, ex-Director Education; Rishang Keising ex-CM; Laishram Muhindro; Dr Sukumar; Potsangbam Tombi; R.K. Jhalajit and Phanjoubam Gourahari among others.

In the atmosphere surcharged with political idealism, philosophies and aspirations, they discussed the future of Manipur. They interacted frequently with their colleagues in the Manipur Students Federation. Pabung E. Yaima and Potsangbam Tombi frequently received communication from Shri Laishram Achou Singh from Imphal that because of the on-going "flag-Satyagraha" and sensitive political situation, there were acute shortage of educated political workers and youth with leadership temperament in Manipur.

Next thing - they turned to their colleague at the Scottish Church College at Calcutta and asked him to join the political movement at Imphal. Initially he was reluctant saying it was not his cup of tea but after persistent pressure from his friends, he said yes, went to Imphal and joined the students' wing of Socialist Party. What his friends saw in him - nobody knows. But the proof of the pudding lies in eating.

Shri Rishang Keising hailing from Bungpa village of Ukhrul district in Manipur proved to be the longest serving and one of the most influential political leaders of Manipur. He was elected in the first Lok Sabha Election in 1952 at the age of 32 and served two terms as Rajya Sabha MP up to 2014. He was Chief Minister of Manipur 1980 - Feb.1988; 1994 - Dec.1998.

Sri Keisingnever forgot his old student friends from Calcutta who had so much of confidence in him that they truthfully wished him to serve the people of Manipur through politics. In his interview to All India Radio, Imphal, he gave the credit for his entry to politics to his colleagues especially late Sri Potsangbam Tombi Singh who literally pushed him from Calcutta to join political movement at Imphal in 1947. Sri Rishang Keising died in 2017 at the age of 96.

The flippancy with which the Central Government dealt with Manipur began with the imposition of centrally administered part C State status on26th January, 1950 with the enforcement of Indian constitution and its continuance flip-flopand dilly-dally with Advisory Council (1950), Territorial Council (1956), and Territorial Legislative Assembly (1963) even after the nascent Nagaland which was a district of Assam was granted full-fledged Statehood in 1963 and Himachal Pradesh followed suit as a new state in 1970.

The people of Manipur was completely disillusioned and disenchanted with the hypocrisy of Indian democracy. All Parties Statehood Demand Committee was formed across the party line and boycotted the Independence day in 1970.Seventeen months after the Civil Disobedience Movement was organised by the Statehood Demand Committee from 17 August, 1970 demanding full-fledged statehood, the Indian Parliament passed the bill for Manipur statehood on 21 January, 1972.

In 1947, we had a constitution which guaranteed equal rights and full participation in government. Two years later, looking for greener pasture, we joined our neighbouring country in 1949 after pulling up our own government for showing disrespect to our neighbour's "tri-colour" flag during our own independence day and sang "Bande Mataram" as if it was our own national song.

Quite ironically in return, from 1949, we were left in limbo for 23 years, before the power that be in Delhi felt pity and mercifully granted statehood in 1972. Now, it has passed next 46 years after statehood - have we developed to any palpable height?

The contrast is humongous between our overenthusiasms to join the Indian union and the latter's apathy to give us equal right and opportunity. "With all the subserviency did Manipur get Statehood a day earlier?" - a bitter P.B writes.

"Leaders from Delhi talk of bringing Manipur into national mainstream. I think, in this N.E. Frontier, Manipur has attempted to be Indian for many decades" - he continued and brought a beautiful analogy of a Naga girl. "Why don't you consider yourself an Indian" - the girl was asked by a pucca Indian. "Why don't you consider us as Indian" - the girl retorted.

It is the story of the progress of Manipur's journey from independence to Merger with India and beyond - with recurring tales of changing identity and the acceptance of the crisis thereof. Can a group of people survive in isolation from the mainstream if the journey is reversed? "Ifs of History" is difficult to conceptualise but if recreated by the deft hand of a gifted scholar like Professor Gangumei Kamei it transforms into a virtual reality.

Professor writes -
"Had there been no merger of Manipur in a crude and imperialistic manner, reminiscent of the British conquest of Manipur in 1891 and had the internal autonomy under the Manipur Constitution Act, 1947 been allowed to continue without interference from India Government, the painful course of the history of the last 44 yearswould have been different."

Today - the painful course of history is running 69 years and - the dream that the first generation had of an equality based uncorrupted, progressive democratic society still remains a dream?


* Shantikumar Moirangthem wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is a retd IPS
This article was first published on 11 Oct 2018 in the Souvenir, 94th Birth Anniversary of RK Maipaksana
This article was posted on 10 October, 2019 .

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